PUBLISHED: 18:25 EST, 3 September 2012 | UPDATED: 04:59 EST, 4 September 2012
- Blockade runners were lightweight warships designed to outrun traditional steamers
- Wreckage has previously appeared but Isaac’s storm surge unearthed even more
Gulf Coast residents are getting a history lesson after a mysterious ship popped up on the beach after Hurricane Isaac.
The wreckage of a presumed Civil War warship washed up in Fort Meyer, Alabama, near Mobile, after the Category 1 storm barreled down on the Gulf Cost.
Portions of the blockade runner had been uncovered in previous hurricanes but the strength of Isaac’s storm surge unearthed more of the ship’s structure, leaving behind a stunning scene and much debate over the ship’s provenance.
Mystery ship: The wreckage of a presumed Civil War blockade runner appeared on the beach near Fort Morgan, Alabama after Hurricane Isaac
‘Look what Isaac uncovered!’ Meyer Vacation Rentals posted on their Facebook page, with photos of the breathtaking remains provided by the local real estate company.
The ship first became visible after Hurricane Ivan, in 2004, and reappeared after Hurricane Ike in 2008.
‘There is disagreement about this mystery ship, whether it is a blockade runner from the Civil War or a rum runner from the 1930s.’
‘Either way, it’s quite interesting. This is the most visible it has been in recent years. Eventually the shifting sands will pull it back under the beach, where it will slumber until another storm is powerful enough to bring it back to the surface,’ the posting added.
Civil War: It appears the ship was manufactured by the British during the Civil War to break the military blockade established to weaken the Confederacy
Fast and light: The ships were designed to be longer, narrower and faster than traditional steamers guarding the coasts
The wooden boat, measuring 150 feet long and 30 feet wide, is believed to be the remains of the Monticello, a Confederate blockade runner that had burned after it crash trying to pass the Union Navy guarding Mobile Bay during the Civil War.
The vessel appears to have been powered by steam. The ship’s hull appears to be an old water pump and a long pipe runs down the center of the ship, according to the Mobile Press-Register.
In the War Between the States, which lasted from 1861–1865, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln ordered a blockade to cut off the South from trading with Europe to weaken the Confederate Army during the conflict.
A runner was a military warship used to break blockades or used in smuggling operations, because its lighter weight allowed for greater speed.
The steamships were designed to be longer, narrower and faster than traditional steamers, stationed along the coast, so they could outrun the enemy.
Blockade: U.S. President Abraham Lincoln ordered the blockade to weaken the South. Blockade runners (like the one pictured) were used to thwart the Union Navy
The design was actually the brainchild of engineers in Great Britain, who manufactured them to allow for continued trade with the South.
The former Colonizer relied on exports like cotton from Southern farmers and investors were keen to protect their investments during the conflict.
They also played an essential part in the war effort because they could bring much needed supplies to Confederate states.
‘For this purpose a competent force will be posted so as to prevent entrance and exit of vessels from the ports aforesaid,’ President Lincoln wrote in the Proclamation of Blockade Against Southern Ports, in April of 1861.
Storm surge: The ship first became visible after Hurricane Ivan, in 2004, and after Hurricane Ike in 2008, but the recent strength of Hurricane Isaac further unearthed more of the ship’s wreckage
Enjoy it while it lasts: Locals say the shifting sands will pull the ship back under the beach
‘If, therefore, with a view to violate such blockade, a vessel shall approach, or shall attempt to leave either of the said ports, she will be duly warned by the Commander of one of the blockading vessels, who will endorse on her register the fact and date of such warning, and if the same vessel shall again attempt to enter or leave the blockaded port, she will be captured and sent to the nearest convenient port,’ the proclamation continued.
By the end of the Civil War, the Union Navy had captured more than 1,100 blockade runners and had destroyed another 355 vessels.
Though most signs point to the ship, discovered on the Alabama beach, having been a runner some historians are arguing over the boat’s origin.
Some speculate it could be the Rachel, a 20th Century schooner, a sailing vessel that had run aground in 1933.
And even others suspect the ship could have been the Aurora, which was used to smuggle rum into the U.S. during the Prohibition – the national ban on the sale, manufacture, and transportation of alcohol that lasted from 1920 to 1933.
But regardless of its origins, locals are coming out to take in the sight and experience a bit of history after the storm.
What a view: Locals are seizing the opportunity to take a look at a piece of history on the beach
Mississippi and Louisiana are now picking up the pieces after the Category 1 hurricane made landfall last week, sustaining winds of 80 miles per hour.
At least seven people died in the U.S. in the storm, five in Louisiana and two in Mississippi.
More than 100,000 Louisiana residents are still without power, in addition to thousands of people in Mississippi and Arkansas.